A Late Discovery: The El-Co Drive-In, Shattuck OK

A crane lifts a drive-in screen into place during construction

Photo from the El-Co Drive-In’s Facebook page

When I built my database of active drive-ins in the summer of 2016, I relied on Google for about 90% of my finds. There was also a magazine list and a few odds and ends. I thought I had it pretty well covered, but I was proven wrong twice. Once was when a colleague passed along several Canadian drive-ins I’d missed. The other was when I happened to see a mention in passing of the El-Co Drive-In Theatre in Shattuck OK.

I dug into it a little, and on Google Maps I could see a typical drive-in viewing arc north of town. Next I found the El-Co’s web site and notified Google of this place it had overlooked. A few days later, I used the Google-verified info to add the El-Co to my database.

Trouble was, this correction didn’t happen until the middle of 2017, and my Drive-In-a-Day Odyssey had already finished virtually driving through Oklahoma. So let me correct that omission with the type of profile you might have read for any of my virtual stops.

This is the second El-Co to have shown movies in Shattuck, in Ellis County. The first was south of town, owned by Garland Wilson. From the info in my reference books, it looks like that tiny, 140-car El-Co opened around 1954 and stayed active only until the mid-1970s. Cinema Treasures wrote that the original wooden screen burned down around 1963. “A new theatre was built of concrete blocks, which operated until at least 1975. It was toppled in a wind storm.” Historic Aerials still showed the viewing field in a 1995 photo, but it had been replaced by buildings by 2003.

What I know about the second El-Co comes almost exclusively from a 2011 article in the Woodward News. It said that after it had “been in the works for around a year”, the new drive-in opened on Thanksgiving weekend that year. “Owners of the drive-in, Jason Swanson and Lance Schultz, both of whom grew up in Shattuck, built the theatre to provide the community with entertainment.” Swanson and Schultz had formed J&L Oilfield Services there in 2002 and had been board members of the Shattuck National Bank. You can see what they look like in their YouTube video.

One of the buildings on the site of the old El-Co is marked as J&L Services on Google Maps; I don’t know if that had anything to do with the new drive-in. Despite a November Grand Opening in 2011, its 2017 season was quite short – just May 26 to August 5. And that’s about all I know, except that this little place did a great job of staying under Google’s radar for several years.

My choice of Restaurant in Shattuck would be Gustos Italian Grill & Pizza, which serves a ribeye steak that looks like it would fit well on my plate.

According to Google, Shattuck is in the middle of a Hotel desert, with the closest decent accommodations about 28 miles northeast in Woodward. There’s a Hampton Inn there, but the Comfort Inn is less expensive and has a higher ranking on TripAdvisor.

And for my Only In, I’d point to the Shattuck Windmill Museum, which has over 50 vintage windmills on display outside, plus an example of a dugout sod house.